TMC sweeps seven civic bodies in Bengal, BJP a distant second, Left wiped out
The CPI(M) on Thursday failed to win even a single ward out of the 148 that went to the polls at seven civic bodies in West Bengal on August 13, even as the Trinamool Congress emerged triumphant.
The ruling party swept the polls held at Dhupguri, Haldia, Panskura, Durgapur, Cooper’s Camp, Nalhati and Buniyadpur municipalities. The BJP emerged second in the race, although with just six seats, while the Left parties put up a dismal show in the electoral contest preceding the crucial 2018 panchayat polls.
The Forward Bloc, the only Left Front partner to notch a seat, blamed the tie-up between the Congress and Left for the loss. “People have not accepted our alliance with the Congress. The Left parties won’t survive if they continue with this alliance,” said party state secretary Naren Chatterjee.
This was a contention echoed even by Trinamool leaders. “The alliance has virtually reduced the CPI(M) to a street sign, and the Congress isn’t even visible. It’s time for both the parties to decide if they should continue to blindly oppose us or support our efforts in the best interests of Bengal,” said Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee.
The CPI(M), however, discounted these theories. “The question of coming first, second or third doesn’t make sense because the polls were neither free nor fair,” argued Sujan Chakraborty, the party’s Jadavpur MLA and state secretariat member.
Meanwhile, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh claimed that the party’s performance on Thursday was an indication that it would make an impact in the panchayat elections. “We are surging ahead, and it’s visible. We are preparing for the big fight in 2018,” he said.
Party national secretary Rahul Sinha alleged that the polls were rigged. “Had the elections been free and fair, we would have done much better. Our main job in the panchayat polls will be to counter state-sponsored violence,” he said.
However, the Trinamool Congress refused to consider the saffron party as a threat in the upcoming elections. “I see no point in calling the BJP the second force in Bengal. It is simply not a power to reckon with,” quipped Partha Chatterjee.
Even Suvendu Adhikari, transport minister and Trinamool heavyweight, claimed that the few political gains made by the BJP came from its “close understanding with the CPI(M)”. He was referring to Haldia, an industrial town that remained a CPI(M) bastion even after the Trinamool Congress came to power. But things changed after the Left party expelled Lakshman Seth, its Haldia strongman, who then joined the saffron party.
In May, the state BJP started acting on a masterplan prepared by party president Amit Shah during a three-day trip to Bengal. Taking some pointers from the Marxists’ proverbial organisational strategy, Shah instructed party leaders to expand the BJP’s presence from the state’s 77,000-odd polling booth areas.
“We will strengthen our presence at the booth level. Party workers across Bengal will undergo training to achieve this. The panchayat polls will be the quarter-final, the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 will be the semi-final, and the assembly polls in 2021 will be the final match,” Ghosh said at a public meeting in May.
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